What are you doing to use social media to drive traffic in your restaurants and to your brand?

May 22, 2013

After looking at some reviews from one of our local restaurants, and having just finished a several hour meeting with David Stein, our guru of lead generation and social media, and all around technology & data wonk, I have technology and social media on my brain. It always amazes me how often the use of social media and technology to drive leafs gets tossed around by people that have little to know real understanding of what works and doesn’t work today, never mind where things are headed at an alarming rate. I was at a meeting recently where one of the very early associates of Google, and a very bright guy to say the least, spoke in laymen’s terms about the industry and where things are headed. The first point he made was that regardless of your internal strategy around social media, there are already thousands of conversations going on all around you every day that are specific to your brand and your business. People are constantly talking and asking each other for input; whether they are looking for a great place to eat or a great business to invest in. I get calls every week from people asking for me to show them how to get engaged. Invariably they want a crash course on how it’s done and they always want to know what they can expect in terms of immediate results. I always tell them the same thing. It takes a an investment of time and energy to get up to speed and participate in all of  the social sites, blogs, and on line lead generation opportunities available. You also have to have and continually develop interesting content, or stories that people actually want to hear about and read, or they will simply tune you out. Expanding your immediate network has never been easier. A couple of years ago I set an initial goal of building my LinkedIn network to over 1,000 contacts. This was back when 500 contacts was considered a great network for any one person. It took me 6 months and many hours to reach that first milestone. Today I manage 4 LinkedIn accounts with over 5,000 direct contacts that reaches over 20,000,000 professionals on a daily basis. All of this is done with minimum cost as compared to traditional marketing. Over the years, I have invested a tremendous amount of time and energy, along with David Stein, cracking the code in these areas, and we are beginning to get a lot of traction. Hurricane Grill & Wings has quickly become the talk of the industry, with tremendous interest in our brand from all sectors in a very short period of time. Last year alone we generated almost 1/2 billion gross media impressions, and we now have tens of thousands of readers and followers of our blogs and posts. All of this for a restaurant company with just 51 stores open to date, with new restaurants opening at the pace of 2 – 3 a month. We are getting the type of media attention and buzz usually reserved for brands many times our size!

For most restaurants just starting out in the social media field it’s all about getting good reviews on the consumer sites like some of the comments I cut and pasted from Tripadvisor.com below:

“Great wing place!”

Reviewed May 20, 2013 NEW via mobile

Have been here twice now, love the wings. So many flavors to choose from, the dynamite and boss sauces are amazing! Sweet potato fries and garlic Parmesan were as well. Also had one if the quesadillas they were excellent. Nice relaxed atmosphere, if you love wings would definitely recommend.

5 of 5 starsReviewed May 19, 2013 NEW

the food is awesome…i had the jumbo wings with the coco loco sauce and sweet chili sauce and they were yummy my side was perfectly steamed broccoli with a buttery garlic sauce….so good. the service was very good our server was very attentive and the atmosphere was so cool fells like you are at the beach

via Hurricane Grill and Wings, Pensacola – Restaurant Reviews – TripAdvisor.

Today I measure success in using fairly sophisticated metrics and modeling programs we have built, and continue to develop along with David Stein. We develop and test internally multiple programs and offers on our own web sites, blogs and social sites. We combine a large variety of channels and tactics to help us build the brand into a national entity, including:

  • All of the social and professional media sites – LinkedIn, Facebook, twitter, you-tube, yelp, and yahoo etc..
  • Our corporate web sites – we have both consumer and franchise facing web sites that link together but have very different target audiences and content. We market them to completely different audiences and run them by separate teams.
  • SEO – we strive to gain credibility of authorship by writing and offering numerous white papers, books, videos and interesting content around everything a consumer or prospective owner might be interested in learning about or following
  • Pay per click – we target the most likely end users and closely monitor the results. We are currently working on developing predictive modeling to better plan our expenditures and prioritize our follow up
  • Email – we have developed a robust nurturing program to engage our most interested and active prospects and customers in order to develop and build a long term relationship with the brand
  • Blogging – we started heavily blogging last year and now have tens of thousands of readers. This is a great way to interact with people on all sorts of topics that they find interesting.
  • Affiliate Marketing – this is a new area for us to test, so  I will reserve comment until we have more data and results to share
  • Testing – this is an area that many companies just don’t get and are therefore not comfortable with. They expect to see an ROI on everything they do, or they just won’t do it. The reality is that there is no one size fits all answer out there, and the field is growing and changing rapidly. We set aside a portion of our budget every month to test new ideas and new ways to leverage our successes. This insures that we are never leaning on past successes and we are always looking forward and challenging ourselves to get better results.

In the end I think you can see how interesting and broad this entire area can be for those interested in learning and growing their business. Unfortunately their are many skeptics out there that are still depending entirely on old school media and find the new technologies confusing at best. I dare say that these companies may not be around ten years from now as the level of competition heats up both locally and globally. For those that are willing to learn and have the intellectual curiosity it takes to learn and grow, there has never been a more exciting time to be be growing a great company or brand.